Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Your guide to eating cheap including tips, recipes and techniques

Archives for Canned Food

[ Currently Eating: Earth Sandwich ]


So, I’ve been monkeying around with the new WordPress install that I grumbled about earlier. Surprisingly, I’ve been finding it hasn’t been grinding my Cheap Eats blogging mojo down.

If anything, it’s made it easier to make posts. There are still a lot of things I hate about it, but it’ll work for now.

I’ve also had some time to think, which is likely a dangerous thing. Deep thinking is not my strong suit. And anyway, I hate to wear neckties.

But yes, I got to thinking that as much as I hate to acknowledge the folks who dislike the “windbaggy” part of this blog, they probably have a sixteenth of a point. In particular, I’ve been complaining too much.

No one likes a complainer.

That is, except my secret horde of Cheap Eats zombie groupies that follow me around the Dollar Store documenting my every move. “Oooh, is he going to grab the Beanee Weenne? Or the Smoked Oysters?

And at night, I lock my lovely food zombie groupies in the pantry where they order my Earthquake food by expiration date. They also type up my ingredients list which is handy because I get tired of writing Thiamine Mononitrate and Disodium Phosphate over and over again.

Yes, zombie groupies are awesome. But even they get tired of me complaining. So I’ll try to wankle and complain less. And write more reviews. Better ones. With better sentences and more grammatically correct.

And I’ll also try to save America from its own gluttony, a la Jamie Oliver, by importing 55 herds of fresh Swedish ox-fish which poop out dynamically balanced meals of meat-veg that school kids will love to eat.

And also, I’ll sail my bathtub to Iceland to put out the volcano so planes can get up in the air already and bring us our imported frozen meat pies, Cadbury bars and haggis.

And so on.

(I lied about the Haggis, I don’t think they can import that to the U.S.)

Speaking of Haggis, this Cook’s Classics Beef Ravioli sure does NOT have anything to with that.

I often get suckered into buying cheap crappy canned food. For some reason, I have this hopeful thought every time I pick up a can of cheap food that it will somehow bring about Everlasting World Peace. But it never quite does. Go figure.

This was pretty cheap at 69 cents for a can. I’m trying to recall if the standard Chef Boyardee Ravioli gets down that far. I think it does at certain stores, but the price I see is usually around a buck. I figured that if this was anywhere similar to Chef Boyardee, I should just put this stuff in the earthquake pantry. I love to buy these off brands for that purpose.

But this Cook’s Classics ravioli really confused me. It smelled exactly like Chef Boyardee’s. The sauce was pretty much the same – gloopy, orange corn starchized puke with bits of “Meat” floating around. The raviolis seemed about the same too – little 1.5 inch pillows of bland, slightly stale-tasting, crackerish (hint, the ingredient after beef is “crackermeal”) paste-pouches.

But the more I ate, the less I liked it. This is somewhat contrary to what usually happens with this kind of food-travesty-in-a-can. What happens normally is that after awhile your taste buds sort of become immune to the crap assaulting it. Either that, or the episode of So You Think You Can Dance you’re watching starts to really heat up, and you forget about meat paste pouches so you can concentrate on all that revealed flesh jiggling onscreen.

Come on. You don’t watch it for the dancing. ‘Fess up.

But truly, I did sort of become more disappointed as the minutes went by. I went from about a 7 score, to a 5 score and finally to a 4. Then Lost came on the TV and I forgot all about scores, as I continued my weekly daydream about kidnapping the cast and holding them hostage in my pantry so that my zombie groupies would have something good to munch on while they’re typing up my reviews.

I think one of the issues is that there is this tangy aftertaste that I can’t quite describe. Kind of like a sour pickle, if a sour pickle was a sauce-drenched pouch of beef paste. Or maybe a cross between a tomato and a pile of metal shavings, if a tomato and a pile of metal shavings was a sauce-drenched pouch of beef paste.

Funny Man needs to end this review soon.

Without further ado, I will now state that this Cook’s Classics Beef Ravioli did not completely suck. However, I would not really suggest you eat this if you are alive.

What I mean to say, is that, zombies and food-reviewing undead, if they are reading this, should immediately go to the Dollar Store and purchase cans of this to take back to their lairs to consume instead of their normal dinner of human flesh.

(If this works, you can thank me later for saving mankind.)

Price: $0.69 for 15 oz
Found At: Fresh & Easy
Cheap Eats Score: 4/10

[ Currently Eating: Earthquake Food ]

Chunky Gumbo Soup - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Fresh on the heels of a small earthquake that rocked me out of bed at 4am, I’m just not really feeling excited about reviewing food this morning. Oh, it was no Haiti or Chile (or Whittier Narrows, in which I was on the second floor of a 1930s era school building), but definitely not the type of thing to calm your nerves.

Because of that, this review of Campbell’s Chunky Grilled Chicken & Sausage Gumbo is going to rely on a tried-and-true, boring, unimaginative review “device”. That device is to present you with the raw list of things I wrote down whilst sitting eating this soup. It’s entertaining for me (but maybe not for you) to try and decode what I wrote down, sometimes months ago.

Yes, I actually sit with a pen in one hand, a spoon in the other, and I try and think of witty things to say about canned soup. It’s a wonderful life.

Transcript follows, with later commentary in brackets:

Chunk Gumb Soup

Smell – Smokyness is pleasant, pretty good, very peppery – Jalap & green peppers, if you don’t like, then bad. [Spelling, grammar: terrible. 10 Demerits.]

Soup Consistency – More watery than some Chunkys I’ve had [erm, isn't that Chunkies?]. Bit “slippery” like gumbo should be [I've no idea what I meant by this].

Salt – Med. high, would dilute it for most ppl. [Usually dilute it nearly two to one with water].

Spice – Med. heat, pleasant – I like more. [Please sir, may I have another] Not sharp, but this may be just right for majority.

Taste – Tiny bit of metal tincan taste overall [Good for goats]. But not bad. Slight smokiness [I thought we already covered the pleasant smokiness in detail, must be important]

Broth – Good flavor [Gee, THANKS FOR NOTHING]

Rice – I personally like rice “soft” in soup. If you’re used to crunch of risotto, may not like it. Almost like noodles. [Definitely showing my age here, but I do still have most of my teeth]

Veg – Tomatos [Ding. Quayle issues], Cellery [I kid you not, I wrote "Cellery". Did I mention that I used to spell at a 5th grade level in Kindergarten? I dunno what happened], Bell pepper, decent amount [As opposed to an indecent amount, I guess]

Chicken – Breast meat – a little dry bland. If I was make homemade would use non-breast or brin it. [LOL - just grin and bear it, or brin and gear it.] But at least not salty.

Sausage – Pretty decent size [Insert joke about my sausage and your sausage, and how one may or may not be lengthier than the other], has some heat to it. But in general, not much flav [Flavor Flav] believe it’s given its all to the flavor of soup. If homemade, you put sausage in later. [At least this is somewhat true, I've found it's better to delay putting in sausage into gumbo until like 1/2 hour before serving.]

Score – Probably 7, but price? 1.49 not bad. Overall excellent [My, my - very descriptive]

Chunky Gumbo Soup - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Price: $1.49 for 18.8 oz
Found At: Fresh & Easy
Cheap Eats Score: 7/10

[ Currently Eating: Uh, Cookies for Breakfast? ]

Hormel Corned Beef Hash

I have something to say. Here it is:

I am a Sucker.

Yes, a sucker. Maybe an unintentional, half-baked or day-old sucker, but a sucker nonetheless.

I reminisce. I nostaligicize. I ponderificate. I make up words. I think back to the Day.

Back to the Day when you had to be a nerd kid to use a computer. (Commodore 64 programmer, thank you very much. 40 characters across the screen was a luxury. Run-stop Restore that bizatch.)

The things you did in your wee moo-cow childhood dayz will always float to the surface like Dexter’s trash-bagged, hacksawed body parts in the bay.

Ok, maybe that’s going too far. Especially when talking about meat products.

We used to eat Hormel Corned Beef Hash on camping trips. This fleshy, fattening substance, studded with Rubik’s Cube corner chunks of potatoes was the highlight of breakfast. Fried up crispy and usually with scrambled eggs, this kind of corned beef hash reminds me of our clunky, yet reliable, motorhome. If you can believe it, my parents still have the SAME motorhome from the early 80s rusting in back of their house. The floor of the motorhome still smells faintly of motorbike dust and packets of Lipton instant cream of chicken soup.

I absolutely think Hormel knows that I’m a Sucker for old timey meat-in-a-can. I think they’re watching me from a spy satellite orbiting the Earth. Like that Simpsons episode. They have special punch cards in their satellite (yes, they use punch cards in case they need to burn the incriminating evidence) that contain food preference data on every single American citizen. I think they sent word to their flunkies on Earth that I was due for a corned beef purchase and thusly they moved quicky to place their product in the aisle I was walking down last week.

I am not paranoid, he sayeth as he dons his foil hat.

Hormel Corned Beef Hash

Corned Beef Hash in a can is an interesting experience. I’ve earlier reviewed Hartford House Corned Beef and if memory serves me correctly I didn’t like it very much. I wish I had a can of that to test side by side with the Hormel variety today, to see if my old score still stands up. Because I’m wondering just how different it can be from the Hormel variety.

Incidentally – who the hell is Mary Kitchen? I know Hormel has been around since 1891, and Mary Kitchen has been around since 1949. But I’m not sure when Hormel bought the brand. I’m trying to think back to the 1980s and remember if the old cans had the Mary Kitchen name on it. Strange, I don’t seem to recall it. I’m sure old fart out there will remind me. Or a new fart would be fine, someone who thinks that he knows stuff because he can read Wikipedia.

Back to the corned beef hash – I’m actually a pretty big fan of this stuff as a special occasion treat. I wouldn’t eat it more than a few times a year. If you do decide to take a trip down memory lane, or if you’re a newcomer to the wonderful world of canned meaty products, I would suggest you do NOT go and smell the unfried stuff straight out of the can. That would be unwise.

You just put it in a frying pan, flatten it slightly, and let it crisp up. I don’t really put oil in it, I just use a nonstick pan. Flip it once and then crack some eggs onto or around it. The best part is the crispy edges, so make sure it’s really flattened. Some people dislike the little Rubik’s Cube potato chunks, but I find that they actually go well with the corned beef. If that’s not enough potato for you, cut up some baked potato from the day before, fry that ahead of time, and then just add it in.

Hormel Corned Beef has a sort of roasty taste to it, but I’m not sure if that’s not from me nearly burning it to get the crispy edges. I paid over $2 for my 15 ounce can, but I think that it’ll occasionally go on sale. Like I said before, it’s not something I’d eat every day, but it’s worthwhile to pick up a can for the pantry. (Do you hear that, Hormel Sky-Watchers? I’m going to buy some more cans, so you better go put them on sale soon.)

And all you dieting nay-sayers out there will be glad to know that they have a “reduced fat” variety. If you still feel guilty, throw some veggies in there for god’s sake. Work with me here, people.

Price: $2.35 for 15oz
Found At: Fresh & Easy
Cheap Eats Score: 7/10

[Editor's Note: Unfortunately, I never learned how to solve the Rubik's Cube. I think I could've done it if I applied myself, but for some reason, the instructions my friend photocopied for me didn't make any sense. So instead, I learned an ancient, time-honored secret method to solve it: it's called the Screwdriver...]

[ Currently Eating: Coffee With Cream ]

Spag Shapes - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

I am not a pretty, pretty princess.

This is not the story of my life living with a Jamaican lobster “Under da Sea”. It’s sort of the story of A Man, a Plan, a Can – Disney Princess Spaghettios. But drat, my palindromic powers are lacking. How about “Omelette was I ere I saw Elmo?” Closer, but wrong movie. And food type.

I did not dress up last Halloween as Ariel. Sometimes I wish I did, because I probably would have gotten more candy than when I dressed up as Richard Nixon. Can you just imagine answering the door and being greeted with “Trick or treat, I’m not a crook” while holding out a bag…

I do not have the hots for Robert Pattinson. But that would be an interesting mix. I think a Disney vampire princess cartoon would sell like hotcakes. Or has that been done already…

I don’t have any posters of these Disney princesses on the wall. Parents with young daughters are rightfully quaking in their shoes at the sight of the Holy Trinity of the Disney-fied Apocalypse on this can – Ariel, Belle and Cinderella. ABC, 123, shoot me now please.

And so on.

One of the difficulties when writing product reviews, is that you’d suspect that this can of Spaghettios Shapes would practically write it’s own review. The problem is that it’s TOO easy to make fun of. It’s like shooting cans of Spam in a barrel.

There are too many inside princess jokes I’d like to spew forth, and too many pop culture references that beg to be mashed up with Spaghettios lore. So what happens is that I start to ramble, to sling those fine Dungeons and Dragons asides. I become comfortably incomprehensible. And inevitably, it turns into one of THOSE reviews.

But I promised myself I wouldn’t do that this time. The only way I can find to mute the mouth is to show a bunch of pictures of the product. It takes up room in the post and makes me feel like I’ve written more than I actually have.

Anyhow, there’s not much more to say on the taste of Spaghettios. We’ve reviewed them before, and once you’ve tasted one can, you’ve tasted them all. The only difference is whether they include meatballs, and what shape the extruded noodles are in. Marketing and packaging – that’s all it is.

Spag Shapes - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

This first thing I have to say about the packaging is that I think something is wrong with the above sentence. But I can’t figure it out. “Cool shapes shaped pasta in tomato and cheese sauce.” Maybe I’m wrong – after all I just write written reviews about cans of canned food.

Spag Shapes - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

There was a surprising diversity of shapes in the can – however, I was disappointed to note that perhaps 50 percent of the shapes were simple “O’s”. Man, if you’re going to go through the trouble of promoting the Disney movies, why not include omit those O shapes? Because (as a future reader will no doubt write in to tell me) then you couldn’t call it Spaghettios any more. And there goes your brand name.

Beyond the shapes, everything else was pretty much what you’d expect. Inhalable noodles in a sweet orange sauce. When I was heating this up in a pot, I was already prepared to be disappointed by the lack of pasta shapes that actually corresponded to the pictures on the can. The shapes that I saw on first glance looked nothing like princesses, castles, carriages or crowns. OK, maybe the crown did look accurate. They looked pretty unrecognizable. I could see why this was on clearance for 90 cents.

Spag Shapes - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

I wouldn’t have blamed them if they didn’t include ALL the “Seven Enchanting Princess Shapes.” After all, who’s going to keep track of stuff like that? What kind of idiot would actually sit there carefully pick the different noodle shapes out of boiling spaghetti sauce? What kind of OCD maniac would try and identify each of the shapes, set them aside on a plate and try to take a photo of them in the same configuration as the picture on the can?

Spag Shapes - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Price: $.90 for 15 oz.
Found At: Ralph’s
Cheap Eats Score: 4/10

[Editor's Note: I actually have a soft spot for Ariel since this was the first movie my wife and I ever saw together. Uh, I think that was 20 years ago. But no, I still won't put up a Little Mermaid poster on the wall. Also, yes I know the "Carriage" noodle shape above is rotated clockwise 90 degrees. I did that on purpose as a silent protest against the death of carriages.]

[ Currently Eating: Gallons of Coffee ]

Pozole - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Here are my first thoughts about Juanita’s Pozole:

CornNut Soup.

That is all.

Just kidding, there’s more. Well, I decided to skip a lame joke about how much I love to eat Juanita’s pozole (as in “everybody say hey, we want some Pozo-le”). Homina hominy, haha. But still, there’s more to say. I also decided to skip a poll on who is hotter: the gal in the Juanita’s or the Sunmaid logos. (Incidentally, I think the Sunmaid gal is a little bit last century’s news, and gosh if her digital facelift sorta makes me think of an fugly bonneted version of Lara Croft.)

No, there is more to the pozole made by Juanita’s Foods than just that. And surprisingly, the majority of it is rather favorable. I say surprisingly, because usually my untrained eye tends to pick out the absolute worst mystery canned foods possible. This leads to lot of dumped meals, which depresses me – especially in this depression where we shouldn’t be wasting food if possible.

Not so with the pozole. I actually made 2 different meals for two people out of this one large can. That’s the first thing about it – It’s a really big can, almost 2 lbs worth of soup. And the second thing is the price – this was a definite impulsive buy at only 99 cents. But I liked it so much, that I later went back and bought more cans at the the same price. I’ll take this as earthquake emergency food over absolute balderdashcrap like VanCamp’s Pork&Beans. Ugh on that. Yum on the Pozole.

I guess it’s at this point that I should admit something. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never really tried pozole before, despite living in the midst of a veritable paradise of Mexican restaurants all my life. I’ve tried a lot of different Mexican foods, but this one was off the radar.

I knew it was a soup/stew and that it had something to do with corn. For those of you who, like me, are pozole virgins (I want to make a joke here but I can’t quite make the connection) – this is a Mexican style pork and hominy soup. From Wikipedia: “a traditional pre-Columbian soup or stew from Mexico and New Mexico… made from hominy, with pork (or other meat), chili pepper, and other seasonings and garnish…”

Pozole - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

With that description out of the way, we get to the CornNuts connection. Ah yes, many a pleasant day as a kid was whiled away obliterating unsuspecting molars with those oversized pieces of corn. I actually don’t know exactly what type of corn Hominy is, or even if it’s a different type (is the large size only due to the soaking treatment with the lye solution?) and I want to prevent you from falling asleep from wacky pseudo-agricultural BS. So, I’ll leave that up to you to discover in your free time.

But yes, seeing as my only experience with larger corn kernels has been CornNuts, this is what I thought of. CornNuts Soup. Juanita’s Foods Pozole is a pork broth based soup, flavored with chile peppers and Mexican spices. I thought at first it had tomato based product in it, but from the ingredient list, I don’t think it does.

The main parts of the soup are the hominy corn and the chunks of pork. Maybe I was just still pissed off from the non-porkiness of the VanCamp’s Pork&Beans sweetcrap I had earlier, but this pozole was really amazing. See for yourself in the picture – I just didn’t expect gargantuan chunks of pork in a can of soup like this. They were truly large. The chunks in the photo are smaller than the ones in the can were. I actually had to break them up. It was like playing Pork Asteroids.

The abundance of pork seems supremely generous, I can’t figure it out. Oh sure, I’m sure some naysayer out there has a tale of how this is inferior pork lips, snouts and asses and blah blah blah. Dude. It cost a dollar. It tasted pretty much like some sort of pork shoulder to me. Well, to be fair – it doesn’t say exactly WHAT kind of pork it is…

Actually, I have the suspicion that this can of pozole isn’t normally that cheap – especially after seeing it being sold on a online Mexican grocery site for $6.95!

The large hominy pieces were pretty good and there was a ton of it in the soup. They taste like softened corn-nuts, but have a masa-like texture that reminds me of the outer corn parts of tamales. Indeed, I think that they often make masa out of ground up hominy. I think that they leave part of the corn kernel shell on, so sometimes you encounter some rather rough bits on the pozole. But that didn’t deter me – I had an enormous bowl.

Did I mention this is a 30.5 ounce can?

We ate pozole for lunch, pozole for dinner and I also had pozole the next day. I should’ve eaten it in the morning since I’ve heard that, like Menudo, it’s a favorite for breakfast. I also hear that there are an absolute ton of “garnishes” that are eaten with pozole. The can label suggests fresh radishes, oregano, shredded cabbage, chopped onions and lime. We actually did something rather weird – we chucked some chopped up Kale in it, like you would do for a Tuscan bean soup. It was pretty good.

I also threw some grated parm cheese in it and that gave it even more body. Some people might think the soup is a little “watery”, but I believe it’s supposed to be that way. The cheese thickened it up nicely.

The overall flavor was a little bit on the salty side – but if you know me, you know I always complain about foods being too salty. I added a little water and it was fine. The spices were just about right, but I felt it could use a little kick with cayenne pepper. There was a little bit of “metal can” taste to the soup, but it wasn’t as bad as some other canned food I’ve had.

Ok, the story is almost done here. Truthfully, it’s hard to make any more jokes about this pozole. I was just very surprised at how decent this was. I mean, at a dollar a can, I wouldn’t complain too much if it was crap. But it was rather good – I suspect you could use this as the base for a more “homemade” type of soup if you doctor it up enough.

Price: $0.99 for 30.5 oz.
Found At: Fresh & Easy
Cheap Eats Score: 9/10

[Editor's Note: Dear Sunmaid - I apologize for dragging your gal's likeness through the mud. She actually is kinda cute in that Uncanny Valley sort of way.]

[ Currently Eating: Leftover Fake Cassoulet ]

Spaghettios - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

I think I’m suffering from selective pasta amnesia.

The reason I think a part of my brain is on the fritz is that, try as I might, I don’t recall Spaghettios that included “donut holes” in the mix along with the hoops.

What in the world is going on?

I’m just an Unfrozen Caveman Cheap Eats Editor. All these extra pasta shapes confuse me.

To be honest, I probably haven’t had Spaghettios since my youthful Camping Days – and probably only a few times at that. This kind of pasta in a can was banned in our household except during special motorhome trips when it just felt right to eat. It’s probably for the best anyway, because as I’ve mentioned, I’ve always felt bad after eating Chef Boyardee and similar products.

Spaghettios - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Anyhow, back to the stupefying inclusion of the inner pasta dots along with the O’s. I’m surprised there aren’t riots in the streets. If you look at the picture on the can, there aren’t any little pasta dots. I just see the O’s, meatballs, and gooey, splashing sauce. As a sidenote: the “liveliness” of the pasta in the picture is a little disturbing. It almost looks like it’s alive. Some sort of viral spaghetti and meatballs that’s about to latch onto your face and telepathically feed you nightmares featuring irate Italian chefs waving cleavers. The Horror.

But yep, there are no pasta dots in the can picture. I wish the product was called Spaghettios with Dots and Meatballs so I wouldn’t get confused. I guess it makes since for them to include them in the can, otherwise they’d go to waste. Last I checked, there is no Home for Wayward Pasta Dots just yet. And they taste pretty much the same.

Oh, the taste. I’ve often written about my dislike of “sweet” things – this usually applies to tomato based products as well. There are only a few brands of spaghetti sauce that we can tolerate (Hunt’s in a can is one of them).

But for some reason, I rather enjoy the oversweetened orangey sauce that comes in these products. I’m not quite sure why, maybe my Sweet taste buds get all nostalgic for it. It has a fairly decent flavor, and I like that it’s very cheesey tasting. Afterwards, I had a slight taste of tin can in my mouth that was difficult to wash out. I find this often happens with canned food that contains tomato products. It wasn’t as bad as some of the other canned tomato items, but it was still noticeable.

The meatballs are tiny 3/4 inch perfect spheres of pureed beef-water-breadcrumb mixture. Incidentally, I keep wanting to type “metaballs” instead of “meatballs“. Something to do with a habit of typing “metadata” I guess. Hmm… MetaMeatBalls.

The noodles are pretty much your plain Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup type of soft, overcooked pasta product. They aren’t spectacular, and you pretty much don’t even notice much about them. It’s like they’re just there to fill up the rest of the empty space that the metameatballs don’t cover.

Anyhow, I guess you aren’t going for texture in this product. I pretty much just wolf the whole thing down – if it wasn’t for the meatballs, I wouldn’t even chew.

The price on this can was a buck fifty at F&E, which I thought at first was kind of reasonable. However, the other day, I think I saw a 26 oz. can of Spaghettios (nearly twice as large) for only a dollar. But I don’t recall if it was plain Spaghettios or if it had the meatballs in it. Surely the meatball variety costs more? Anyhow, the end result is that I upped the review score on this a bit because I’m assuming you can get it for cheaper than I did.

So the surprising thing is that I didn’t feel ill at all after eating this. I don’t know what’s happened. It’s either that they’ve done something to the main recipe over the years to prevent it from irritating my bowels, or my stomach has taken a strange liking to these canned spaghetti products.

For the sake of my health, I sincerely hope it’s not the latter. The last thing I need is the OK to ingest this stuff on a daily basis. It’s almost like it was a GOOD thing that it used to make me feel sick – that way I didn’t eat it very often. As for the stupidity of eating things that you know make you sick – I’m like one of those folks who occasionally hit their heads against the kitchen counter to see if there’s a different result than the last time.

Actually, I’ve been thinking maybe my pasta shape amnesia has been brought on by that very action of me smacking my head on the counter. Or maybe, the dots aren’t really there and I’m just hallucinating them!

All in a day’s work.

Price: $1.50 for 4.75 oz. can
Found At: Fresh and Easy
Cheap Eats Score: 6/10

4/28/09 | Olives

[ Currently Eating: Mysterious Breakfast ]

Olives - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Once upon a time there was a woman who constructed a house made entirely of Olives. Black olives, green olives, kalamata olives, stuffed olives filled with pimientos, cheese and garlic and raw uncured olives (not recommended for eating). The olive house, which covered 1500 square feet and included a peaked roof, was held together with an insane amount of cream cheese and liver pate. Each corner of the house featured a Dirty Martini bar. She wore dresses woven entirely out of olive branches with olives for buttons.

This is not her story.

I’m going to apologize in advance for this post – I’m not an olive expert. I like them well enough, but I’ve never really paid attention to the different types. I know the standard black olives that go on top of wannabe enchiladas and into gooey 7-layer dip. The pic above is your standard whole pitted black olives that I like to slice up and put into pasta salad. And so on.

My parents have had an olive tree on their front lawn ever since I can remember – I guess that would be over 35 years. It’s smack dab in the middle of the lawn and for some reason, it’s outlasted pretty much every other tree on their property. I remember ducking under the overhanging branches laden with fruit whilst mowing the lawn (non-electric mower, OMG, you can’t imagine the horror).

When the olives ripened and dropped, they’d stain the sidewalk and driveway if they were stepped on. I can’t imagine why they didn’t cut the fricken tree down because of the nuisance. I think they had a psychological attachment to the tree. Maybe the whole peace symbol thingy.

I always wondered why these “olives” were so green – at the time my knowledge was limited to black olives out of a can. Several times, I remember my parents getting the bright idea of curing their own olives. They did it the traditional way using a lye solution. As a kid, I never understood how it was that they were cured by putting it into a poisonous solution that would burn you. Actually, it still amazes me that this is the way a lot of olives are cured.

Anyhow, so the question is: are Olives a good candidate for Cheap Eats?

I believe the answer is yes, in most cases.

I like to keep at least a can of black olives and a jar of the green Spanish style olives in the pantry at all times. They last for a long, long time. Even after you open a can of olives, they last a heck of a long time when stored in the fridge properly. I sometimes splurge on the Kalamata olives at TJs or Whole Foods, but for the most part, I stick with whole, pitted black olives in a can.

Olives are just a really versatile food – you can snack on them whole, slice them up for salads, mix them into pasta, cook them in a sauce, use them as a topping for party food (dips are a fave), and serve them as part of an antipasto. I don’t really buy the stuffed olives frequently, but there are millions of different varieties of those should you be in need of some quick appetizers. I had some Habanero cheese stuffed ones the other day – wooo, they were good.

One of my favorite things to do is to chop olives and add them to sandwiches. Once upon a millenium, there used to be a chain store called Fedco. If memory serves me correctly (and it never does), this was my first experience with green olives. They used to have an item called a Sandini Sandwich that had green olives in a mayo spread. I like making a similar poor-boy style sandwich with turkey or ham and olive spread. Just chop up the olives and mix them with mayo. Makes the sandwich taste sort of tangy and refreshing. It’s almost like relish, but it tastes better to me.

For standard canned black olives, I usually buy the whole ones as opposed to the sliced or chopped. The reason is that you can cut up whole olives, but you can’t put sliced ones back together into whole ones. I mean, unless you’re some kind of Wizard (I guess Harry Potter might incant Olivus Reparatus, but then I’m just a Muggle). In addition, I like to slice up olives thicker than the pre-sliced olives from cans.

If you buy whole green Spanish olives with the pits still in them, it can be cheaper than pitted green olives. The issue is getting the pits out. Previously, I’d tried to cut the exterior off which took forever. It was like carving a mini-turkey. A better way to do it, especially if the olives are on the firmer side, is to smack them with the flat blade of a kitchen knife. You do it much like the method for smacking garlic cloves to remove the skin. Smacking the olives should cause the pit and meat to separate pretty easily so that you can just pick out the pit. Hm… did I just say “Smacking Olives”? Geez. Oh yes, smack my olives, baby…

The one issue about olives for me is that depending on what kind you’re looking for, they can be rather pricey. The Kalamata and stuffed olives will set you back quite a bit. But the standard canned black olives aren’t that expensive – a standard six ounce can of whole black olives should set you back anywhere between $.50 and $1.50. When you open a can, store the unused remainder with its liquid in a glass storage container or a jar. It’ll last for quite awhile. I spoon a few out, chop them up, and throw them into whatever recipe I’m making.

And no, despite what you may think, I do not have an olive or olive oil fetish. And yes, those things do exist.



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